Parents of active kids know how much children can move. They’re always running from one activity or sport to the next—which is why a limping child who suddenly doesn’t want to participate can be upsetting. Sever’s disease, the most common cause of heel pain in children, can slow down your active child and keep him or her from favorite activities.
Actually, it’s an Injury
Sever’s disease is uncomfortable, but not as frightening as it may sound. Also called calcaneal apophysitis, the condition is actually an injury, not a disease. It’s a problem with inflammation in a child’s heel bone growth plate. This “plate” is the line where new bone tissue develops as the foot grows. Heavy or repetitive pressure on the back of the heel strains the bone along this line, irritating it.
As a result, your son or daughter ends up with an aching pain in the heel, particularly after participating in sports or other highly active games. The discomfort may be enough to make your child limp. He or she may try to compensate by walking on the toes. Squeezing the sides of the heel will cause pain as well.
Where It Comes From
Since the condition affects the growth plate, it can only occur in children whose feet are still growing and who subject their feet to heavy or repetitive pounding. Typically the problem develops because the feet grow slightly faster than the rest of the lower limbs. This tightens the connective tissues attached to the feet, since they grow a little more slowly and may not be long enough. This can already aggravate the heel. The hard impacts and overuse from spots and general running around further strain the heel bone, leading to the painful inflammation. That is why the condition is most common in young athletes. Tight calves or Achilles tendons contribute to the problem as well. Even poor-fitting shoes that don’t support the feet when they’re growing may play a role in the discomfort.
What You Can Do About It
Since the condition can only affect children with open and functional growth plates, your child will eventually out-grow the problem. Fortunately, though, your son or daughter doesn’t have to wait that long to get some relief from the pain. Conservative treatment can help alleviate the discomfort. Dr. Brandon S. Percival, Dr. Julie A. Percival, and Dr. William Harris will examine your child’s feet to rule out other possible problems and accurately diagnose the issue. From there our staff will help your son or daughter begin a treatment plan.
The key will be reducing the pressure on the back of the foot and eliminating the inflammation. Your child may need to take a break from all hard-impact activities for a little while. This allows your son or daughter’s foot to heal without adding additional aggravation. Most likely his or her heel will need more support as well. Make sure your child wears shoes with plenty of cushion in the back and the right kind of support through the arch. Custom orthotics like heel cups can help pad the back of the foot as well as reduce strain from the Achilles.
Stretching will be important, too. Help your child stretch out his or her calves and Achilles tendons. Ice the back of the foot when it’s uncomfortable. We might recommend child-safe anti-inflammatory medication if the pain is significant. If none of this seems to help, your child may need to have his or her foot immobilized for a short period of time.
Sever’s disease is a fairly common problem that can keep your active child watching from the sidelines for a while. Rather than waiting for him or her to outgrow the problem, though, let Carolina Podiatry Group help you treat, or even prevent, the pain. Contact our South Carolina offices for an appointment. You can use the website or call directly—(803) 548-FEET for Fort Mill, or (803) 285-1411 for Lancaster.